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Introducing the FACTS of Arminianism

One of the reasons that Calvinism has been effective in their growth is the acronym TULIP.  While some Calvinists contend that the acronym does not embody all that they believe and hold dear, TULIP has long been associated with Calvinism and has helped them to quickly clarify what it is they believe.  The system of Calvinism does seem to stand or fall based on TULIP.  For example, if the Calvinist concept of total depravity is true (T in TULIP) then logically unconditional election would follow (U in TULIP).

When it comes to Arminianism, I admit up front that we have no acronym that defines us.  The five points of Calvinism actually do not come from Calvin but from the Synod of Dort where the early Arminians brought five points to discussion.  The kangaroo court that was the Synod of Dort condemned the five points of the Remonstrants and Calvinism was declared to be the orthodox view.  The five points of Calvinism came out of Dort.

The five points that the Remonstrants brought to Dort are our basis.  In this regard, we Arminians then are not seeking to combat the five points of Calvinism per se but to use the five points originally given to the world at Dort by the Remonstrants.  These are our five points.  In short, Arminianism rather than Calvinism began with five points.

The problem with FACTS is simply that it does not flow like TULIP.  For example, I would rather than total inability be first but the FACTS acronym has freed by God’s grace first (F).  This counters the Calvinist doctrine of irresistible grace (or effectual calling these days).  Therefore, as we work through FACTS we will have to jump around.  This is okay since Calvinism does the same with TULIP.  Each point hangs on the other.  With regard to both FACTS and TULIP, they both work off the other points.  For example, F with T.  Arminianism declares that mankind is depraved, total unable to repent of their sins apart from the grace of God.  Therefore the Lord Himself frees sinners from the chains of sin by His grace when the gospel is preached unto them so that they may respond and either reject or be saved by the Spirit of God.  We agree with Calvinists that sinners are incapable of being saved apart from the work of the Spirit and God’s grace.  We differ with our Calvinist brethren over whether this grace is resistible.  We believe that God frees sinners to believe but He does not bend their wills so they are merely doing what God wills but rather God convicts the sinner of their sins but He allows the sinner by their own free will (that He has freed by His grace) to either reject His salvation or submit to the Spirit and be saved.  When a sinner does submit, this is the divine work of the Spirit and the sinner’s regeneration is a sovereign act of God (John 3:3; Titus 3:5).

On my next post on this topic, we shall begin to look at the FACTS of Arminianism.  We must bear in mind that Arminius himself was a former Calvinist.  Arminius esteemed Calvinism and held on to many of its tenets.  This was not a rebel working against the church of Christ.  Arminius was a man who truly loved Christ and wanted to see the truth of God go forth.  While he differed with Calvin and Beza here and there, this was a man who wanted to follow the Bible above creeds and confessions.  I pray that this would be my heart as well.

Written by The Seeking Disciple

10/05/2014 at 11:14 AM

Pray For Those Whom You Disagree

Jesus taught us in Matthew 5:44 to pray for our enemies.  He said, “But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.”  Adam Clarke offers sound advice about this when he writes,

This is another exquisitely reasonable precept. I cannot change that wicked man’s heart; and while it is unchanged he will continue to harass me: God alone can change it: then I must implore him to do that which will at once secure the poor man’s salvation, and contribute so much to my own peace.

We Christians have not always obeyed this verse very well.  Like other humans, we can want revenge or to gloat over the fall of our enemies.  We enjoy watching people fail.  We enjoy it when we see people fall into sin.  This should not be but it is the truth.

Church History is also full of the evils we have done toward others.  Whether it be Martin Luther’s hatred for the Jews and his call to attack them or John Calvin’s treatment of the heretic Michael Servetus, we have a history of persecution.  During the Reformation, the reformers often called for the persecution of the Anabaptists.  Arminius was more charitable toward the Anabaptists though he disagreed with them.

After the infamous Synod of Dort, the victorious Calvinists took to persecuting Arminians.  Arminian pastors were forbidden from preaching, their churches were either burned or closed, and one Arminian at the Synod of Dort lost his head for his faith.  The persecution was intense against the Arminians.

At the turn of the 20th century, the Pentecostals faced persecution from other Christians.  Baptists and even Holiness churches persecuted the Pentecostals.  In the South, the KKK tormented the Pentecostals and burned their churches.  Men such as G. Campbell Morgan called the Pentecostal movement, “the vomit of Satan.”

Again, we have not done a good job in history of living out Matthew 5:44.

My first advice in living out Matthew 5:44 is to pray for those whom you disagree.  How often do you pray for those whom you dislike because of their beliefs?  How often do you pray for Muslims or for Hindus to be saved?  Do you pray for the Islamic terrorists to come to faith in Christ?  Do you pray, like Paul in Romans 10:1, for the Jew to be saved?  Do you pray for all men to be saved (1 Timothy 2:1-6)?  Do you cry out for the glory of God to be revealed through those whom you disagree such as other disciples but different from you theologically?  For example, I disagree with Calvinism but this does not keep me from praying for and loving Calvinists.  I pray often for open air preachers I know who are Reformed in their theology and perhaps would not even sit at a table with me for my Arminianism but I pray for them and ask our Father to use them for His glory.

The sad history of the Church has seen too much violence toward those whom we disagree.  We need a time of peace and a time where we show the world the truth of John 13:34-35.  I am not saying that we lay down our theology for some sort of fake love.  I am saying that we need to pray for those whom we believe are damned or simply whom we disagree.  We are quick to write a blog post on a brother or sister but are we so quick to pray for them?   We cast judgment on people all the time but are we praying and interceding for them to know the truth of God?  We say we believe in a God who hears and answers prayer.  Then show it.  Pray for those whom you disagree and ask the Lord to transform their heart (2 Timothy 2:24-26).

Written by The Seeking Disciple

11/03/2013 at 10:50 PM

Reformed And Reforming

“Reformed and Reforming” is the cry of many Calvinists today.  Oddly, this was the cry of Arminius as well.  The reason that we Arminians often call ourselves “reformed Arminians” is not because we have adopted some parts of Calvinism or we wish to steal the title from reformed Calvinists but the title comes from the fact that Arminius was working safely within the reformed tradition.  To picture Arminius as a rebel against John Calvin would be a mistake.  Arminius was trained under Theodore Beza, Calvin’s son-in-law and successor after his death.  Many Calvinists note that it was Beza who took Calvinism to a new level by asserting that Calvin taught double predestination.  Many modern Calvinist theologians see Beza as responsible for the rise in hyper-Calvinism following the death of Calvin.  It was under Beza that Arminius was trained.  Arminius graduated from under Beza and went on to pastor a Calvinist church in Holland.  It was from here that he begin to question Beza and other “high Calvinists” over their views when he begin to preach through Romans verse by verse.

Arminius called for the Synod of Dort but died before the synod met.  His call was not to rebel against Calvinism but to put in motion the cry of the Calvinists of “reformed and reforming.”  The Calvinists differed with Martin Luther and though they appreciated all that Luther did in helping the reformation, they saw a need for more reforming.  So did Arminius.  He was not calling for a debunking of Calvinism.  He was calling for a meeting to debate whether the Calvinists should continue to abide by the catechisms if in fact they were shown to be in error.  The Calvinists of Arminius’ day were saying that the catechisms represented sound doctrine and should be adhered to but Arminius said that ultimately the Bible was the final authority for faith and practice and should the creeds of men differ with the Bible, we must embrace the Bible.  Arminius was fighting just what Martin Luther had fought with the Catholics in that the Catholics embraced Scripture but made tradition equal to Scripture if not holding to traditions above Scripture.  Luther call for a reformation where the Scriptures became the final authority.  Arminius saw the same in the Calvinists of his day.  While he loved John Calvin (and some Calvinists and perhaps Arminians will find that alarming though it is true), Arminius felt that the Scriptures were to be studied and if shown that Calvinists views were in error through proper usage of Scripture then we must embrace Scripture.  If someone will take the time to read the works of Arminius, you’ll notice how often he appeals to Scripture above all other sources and he seeks to build his case not by mere statements but through exegesis of the Scriptures.

So the reformed cry of “reformed and reforming” was the cry of Arminius as well.  It should be our cry as well.  John Calvin was just a man.  James Arminius was just a man.  They both were sinners in need of a Savior.  Both men were incredible theologians and deep thinkers and much can be admired from Calvin and Arminius but in the end, only Jesus is Lord (1 Timothy 6:15-16).  Jesus doesn’t share His glory with any flesh (Revelation 5:9-10).  In eternity we will not sit around and point fingers at Calvinists or Arminians and say that we were right and they were wrong.  Our attention will always be on Jesus Christ for He alone is worthy to be praised.  I praise God for the wisdom that He gives to men such as Calvin or Arminius or Wesley or Spurgeon but even more I praise God that He has set me free by His grace through His Son’s precious blood (Ephesians 1:7).  I deserve the wrath of God but I rejoice that I receive His perfect righteousness through faith in Jesus (2 Corinthians 5:21).  I pray that I would never cease to exalt Jesus above all others.  I believe that would be the heart of Arminius as well.

Written by The Seeking Disciple

10/19/2011 at 1:44 AM

An Arminian View of the Synod of Dort

Calvinists have longed pointed out that at the Synod of Dort, Arminianism was condemned as heretical and Calvinism was affirmed.  Robert Lightner, for example, writes, “The views of the Remonstrance were rejected as heretical at a National Synod of Dort 1618-1619.  The Synod also set out to present the true Calvinistic teaching in regard to the five matters called into question.  They started what we know today as the five points of Calvinism.”  The five points of Calvinism that we now have in the acronym TULIP finds its origins at the Synod of Dort in reply to the Remonstrance who brought five charges before the Synod in their seeking of a revision of the Beglic Confession and Heidelberg Confessions of Faith.

I have written before that had Arminius lived, I think he would have offered an excellent defense for his views.  Bear in mind that Arminius did not feel that he was working for change outside of Calvinism but within.  Arminius, in fact, appealed to both Scripture and to the early Church Fathers for proof that the Calvinistic views of his day were not the teachings of the Church (although modern Calvinists like to think that Paul the Apostle was a Calvinist).  Arminius came to his conclusions not out of rebellion to Calvinism but he came to his views from two sources.  First, Arminius was asked by Beza and the Calvinists in Geneva to defend their views against the Anabaptists.  Arminius came to agree with the Anabaptists on many issues in the process of his studies.  Second, Arminius begin to differ with the popular teaching of the day that the man of Romans 7 was a regenerated man.  From here (Romans 7), Arminius begin to differ with Calvinism of his day and this led to his exegesis of Romans 9-11 that finally led to the Remonstrances bringing their desires to change the confessions of faith to avoid the teachings of Calvin.

The rest of history about the Synod of Dort is more or less a joke.  The Arminians (as they later would be called), never had a chance to either defend their views nor to make any serious discussion over changing the Confessions.  Carl Bangs writes, “After the magistracy of the country was purged of its Arminian influence, it proceeded to call the long awaited national synod.  It was held at Dordrecht in 1618-19, under the presidency of the Leeuwarden minister Johannes Bogerman.”  The New International Dictionary of the Christian Church writes, “The controversy became mixed with political issue; the Remonstrants were supported by the powerful Oldenbarneveldt, but opposed by the stadhounder Maurice of Orange.  Deprived of their chief political supporter, the Remonstrants were helpless, and the synod speedily declared their teachings erroneous.”

From the beginning of the Synod of Dort, strict Calvinists were in charge of the of the synod.  John Bogerman was elected the President of the Synod.  Bogerman was no saint.  Bogerman started a crusade against the Anabaptists (whom he hated with a passion).  He wrote, “Strike down valiantly these monsters in the guise of men” (from Samuel Fisk’s excellent work Calvinist Paths Retraced).  While three Arminians were elected to take seats at the Synod, the Calvinists forced them to be removed and thus no Arminians were allowed to be on the Synod.  From here the Remonstrants were summoned as criminals to appear before a court (see Bangs’ Arminius p. 279).

What followed was a joke.  The Arminians were condemned from the beginning of the Synod.  It was clear that since the Remonstrants were not allowed any delegates to be seated, the synod was clearly one sided.  The Synod of Dort was not, as some Calvinists like to picture, believers in a hall examining major passages of Scripture and allowing time to debate those passages of Scripture but was instead a court house with lives in the balance and the Calvinists with an agenda.

The result was more than just the condemnation of Arminianism as heresy.  200 Arminian clergy were arrested and banned from preaching.  All Arminian churches were ordered closed and no Arminian churches were allowed to be built.  All 13 of the Remonstrants summoned were arrested.  Grotius was arrested and ordered to be imprisoned for the remainder of his life.  He escaped with the help of his wife in 1621.  Van Olden Barneveldt was arrested, condemned, and beheaded on May 14, 1619.  Philip Schaff in book The Creeds of Christendom correctly observes, “Some secular historians denounce the Synod of Dort as a Calvinistic tribunal of inquisition” (pp. 514-515).

The crux of the issue for Arminius is a point that is often overlooked.  Despite his death in 1609, Arminius wanted there to be a national synod to address one major issue for him: Whether Scripture should be the supreme authority in terms of which Confession and Catechism could be revised, or whether the Confession and Catechism should be determined a priori to be so conformable to Scripture that not even Scripture could judge them.  Arminius felt that the Scriptures were the judge of the Confessions and thus they can be changed if proper exegesis showed them to be in error.  In other words, Calvinists of his day were taking the Confessions and Catechism and making them the judge of truth and error and Bible study was first to take the Confession and then come to the Scripture.  In our day we would say taking TULIP as your confession and then using the Bible to proof-text your faith instead of allowing the Bible to judge your catechism.

Intense persecution by Calvinists toward Arminians would continue to 1630.  Political changes and more religious freedom allowed for the Arminians to begin to take root.

What a sad history for Arminianism.  From the beginning of our history we have had the stakes against us.  Some would say that God is opposed to us.  Of course we differ.  Jesus said that all men would hate us if we follow Him (Matthew 5:10-12).  Paul said that all who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will suffer (2 Timothy 3:12).  Those who seek to be faithful to Jesus and His Word will suffer.  Whether at the hands of religious people (such as the Calvinists at the Synod of Dort) or from the world.  A passion for God and His Word always leads to others hating and despising us.

But we can rejoice.  Romans 8:18 says that these present sufferings are not worth comparing to the glory that will be revealed to us.  Van Olden Barneveldt perhaps was the first Arminian martyr for the faith but he received his full reward for his suffering for Jesus.  I believe we should pray with Paul in 2 Timothy 4:8 and believe that despite suffering for Jesus, our reward is assured for those who love Jesus and His appearing.

If I could go back in time to the Synod of Dort I would tell the Remonstrants, “Do not fear what you are about to suffer.  Behold, the devil is about to throw some of you in prison, that you may be tested, and for ten days you will have tribulation.  Be faithful unto death, and I will give you the crown of life” (Revelation 2:10).

Written by The Seeking Disciple

07/07/2010 at 3:41 PM

Posted in Synod of Dort

Arminius Begin A Calvinist

Recently I was listening to a sermon on the life of Charles Spurgeon and the speaker admonished Spurgeon for the fact that he never changed his theology. He warned that in our day it is quite popular to either constantly be changing positions on doctrinal issues or to declare that you don’t really know what you believe as so many in the emergent church now like to proclaim. Absolute truth is often thrown out the window in favor of appeasing the world by not being dogmatic on doctrinal issues.

I do find it impressive that Spurgeon did not change his theological views from the time of his conversion to his death. I know this is not the case for most people. Even Calvinist John MacArthur admits that he changed his mind on dispensationalism and on the eternal Sonship of Jesus Christ. I know that for some it is simply an issue of pride not to change their mind on doctrinal issues.
I admit that I have changed my mind over the years. I have been an Arminian since my conversion in 1992 but over the years I have changed my mind on some issues. None of the issues that I have changed my mind on would be viewed as essential issues such as salvation or the deity of Jesus or the inerrancy and infallibility of Scripture. However, I have changed my mind several times on eschatology and on ecclesiology. Yet I have remained Arminian in my views on the five points of Calvinism.
Arminius, on the other hand, begin his life as a Christian as a Calvinist believer. Calvinists miss this point. Most assume that Arminius begin with a faulty view of mankind, elevating mankind above God or elevating free will. In all actuality, Arminius begin as a staunch Calvinist. He was even commissioned by Geneva’s leaders (Theodore Beza, the successor of Calvin) to address the baptism debate between Calvinists leaders and the “heretical” Anabaptists. It was here, in his study of Anabaptist theology, that Arminius begin to wrestle with the doctrines of Calvinism and the Scriptures. He also begin to preach through the book of Romans and two major chapters in Romans (7 and 9) would be the point where Arminius’ exegesis of Scripture would begin to clash with Calvinist theologians of his day.
But I think its important to see that Arminius begin his studies as a Calvinist. So many Calvinist that I have known who once claim to have been Arminians often view their embracing of Calvinism as almost like being “born again.” Sometimes it borders on gnosticism with its idea that the Calvinist is truly enlightened while us Arminians and other non-Calvinists are almost not even saved and definitely not enlightened enough to see the truths of Calvin. I am aware that this is not true of all Calvinists so let me make that clear. Yet I know of one man who within the last year embraced Calvinism and he is now completely zealous for Calvin and Calvinism. In fact, he is now more zealous for his new found Calvinism than Jesus it seems. I know that he would claim that Calvinism truly exalts Christ whereas us non-enlightened Arminians are stuck in our works-salvation and “will worship” (to borrow from one Calvinist blog). Whenever this man speaks about his “conversion” to Calvinism, he speaks as one who is now had his eyes opened to the majesty of God, His sovereignty, and His authority.
I think its important to learn from Arminius at this point. Exegesis of Scripture must be above our doctrinal positions. We possibly are correct in our doctrines and I would pray so (Titus 2:1 NIV) but exegesis and not merely the ability to quote a doctrine is vital. Arminius begin his studies of the Bible as a Calvinist and through careful exegesis he became convinced of the errors of Calvinism. The Remonstrants were ALL Calvinists! None of them were Arminians (for the name had not be attached to them as of yet). Arminius and the Remonstrants were like Martin Luther was a monk in the Catholic Church, he was a Calvinist who was studying the Scriptures.
The Synod of Dort proves something as well. It proves the opposite of Arminius and that is that so many people hold to their doctrines without exegesis of the Scriptures. I am convinced that had Arminius lived, not a Calvinist at the Synod of Dort would have be able to stand against his exegesis. The Remonstrants, for their part, stood their own ground and from my reading of the “debate,” they won but the cards were stacked against them from the start. Even if Arminius would have been there, the Synod of Dort would have found him heretical not because of their willingness to debate the Scriptures but because they were not willing to see from the Scriptures that they were wrong.
Exegesis of the Bible is so important and it is necessary to protect the people of God and ourselves as Paul admonished Timothy in 1 Timothy 4:16. 2 Timothy 2:15 exhorts us to rightly divide the word of truth (KJV). This doesn’t begin with what Calvin said or what Beza said or what Perkins said or what Arminius said or what Gill said or Owen said or Edwards or Wesley but with careful, diligent exegesis of God’s holy Word. May all of us, both Arminians and Calvinist alike, be willing to come to the Bible and allow it to be studied and taught through careful exegesis.

Written by The Seeking Disciple

04/07/2010 at 1:42 AM

What If Arminius Had Lived?

Jacobus Arminius died on October 19, 1609. The infamous Synod of Dort convened in 1618-1619. A full nine years after the death of Arminius. The Remonstrants were written in 1610 and debated in the various churches, lecture halls, taverns, and universities by Calvinists and the Remonstrants (not yet called Arminians) until the Synod of Dort met. The Synod of Dort condemned Arminianism (as it would be later called) on May 9, 1619. The rest is history.

Following the Synod of Dort, the two leading Remonstrance spokesmen had been Johan van Oldenbarnevelt and Hugo Grotius. Both were imprisoned by the Calvinists and condemned. Van Oldenbarnevelt was beheaded by the Calvinists on May 13, 1619 and Grotius was given a life sentence in prison but escaped with the help of his wife. Ironically, to show you how bias the Synod of Dort was, both men had been in prison since August 29, 1618.

While there can be no changing of history, I have sometimes wondered whether the outcome of the Synod of Dort might have been different had Arminius not died in 1609. Arminius was no doubt one of the leading theologians of his day. His works, because of the Synod of Dort, were not published until 1629 and many of them had been lost prior to this. We have only a portion of much of what Arminius said and did. But a casual reading of Arminius’ works is simply impossible. He is both a theologian and a philosopher rolled into one. His arguments against Calvinism range from exegesis of known biblical passages to simply arguing based on human reasoning (a method John Wesley would later employ himself when debating Calvinism).

Suppose with me for a moment of the thought of what might have happened if Arminius had not died in 1609. Suppose Arminius was able to defend his views at the Synod of Dort. I doubt there would have been a Calvinist theologian who would have been able to argue his case as Arminius would have. There is no denying that Calvinists would have sent their best lawyers and theologians to debate Arminius but few would have been able to match his ability to speak or debate. While the outcome of the Synod of Dort probably would not have turned out different since the Calvinists had stacked the table against the Remonstrants so they could not win the debate (much like Democrats controlling Congress for example with more seats and more votes), I do think that Arminius would have stood his ground and he possibly would have changed many minds about the doctrines of Calvin.

We simply will never know. History only speaks for us now.

I do think that the death of Arminius in 1609 caught the other Remonstrants off guard. They had long looked to Arminius and his brilliant mind to defend them and he had. Yet now they had to find new spokesmen for their cause and they found them in three main men: Simon Episcopius, Johan van Oldenbarnevelt, and Hugo Grotius. While I think these three men did well, they lacked the theological background and training as Arminius. Arminius had been taught by Theodore Beza in Geneva and at one time had defended Calvinism yet when asked by Beza to defend Calvinism against the Anabaptist movement, Arminius begin to change his theology. Few could say that among the Remonstrants at the Synod of Dort.

Arminius was a great man of God and how I pray that in time, he will be remembered that way.

Written by The Seeking Disciple

08/08/2009 at 10:52 PM

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